IA-Sen: Joni Ernst's (R) Vote To Confirm Trump's EPA Head Is Hurting Her Re-Election Bid

When you bear hug Trump, this is what you get:

‘Iowa senator Joni Ernst signed on to a letter begging EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler – whom she voted to put into office – to reject retroactive biofuel blending waivers harmful to many Iowa farmers.

Ernst and other Senators urged the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Andrew Wheeler – appointed by Donald Trump and approved by Joni Ernst and other Republican Senators – to reject petitions for Small Refinery Exemptions (SREs) under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) for past compliance years. In the letter announced today, the senators warn that granting these petitions would worsen the unprecedented economic challenges facing the biofuels industry and demand that the EPA apply the 10th Circuit decision nationally.

“We urge you to reject these petitions outright and respond in writing to our questions about recent use of SREs under the RFS. These petitions should not even be entertained because they are inconsistent with the Tenth Circuit decision, Congressional intent, the EPA’s own guidance, and – most importantly – the interests of farmers and rural communities who rely on the biofuel industry,” the senators wrote.

“The approval of SREs for past compliance years at this moment would only worsen the unprecedented economic challenges facing the biofuels industry and the rural communities that it supports. EPA must deny these petitions and apply the 10th Circuit decision nationally.”

“The 52 waivers that have been submitted to EPA for consideration, some dating back to 9 years ago, should be denied. The ploy of these waivers serve as just another way to destroy corn and ethanol demand at a time when we need access to the market the most. We hope the EPA will honor the request by Senator Ernst to deny the small refinery waivers and apply the Tenth Circuit Court decision nationwide rather than this Administrator kicking the American corn farmer again while we are down,” said Jim Greif, President, Iowa Corn Growers Association.

Yeah, about that:

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At the same time Sen. Joni Ernst is promoting her tough talk against the Environmental Protection Agency and its antagonism toward the ethanol industry, campaign finance records show the Iowa senator has accepted thousands of dollars from a large oil company that is skirting a renewable fuels law.

Between 2014 and 2019, Federal Election Commission filings show Ernst received $9,000 from the political action committee and CEO of Tesoro Corp., also known as Andeavor, one of the nation’s largest oil refining companies.

In June 2014, Tesoro Petroleum Corps. PAC donated $5,000 to then-candidate Ernst. In Nov. 2016, Ernst took $1,500 from Gregory Goff, the corporation’s CEO and chairman. In May 2019, Goff made two contributions to Ernst’s campaign totaling $2,500.

In April 2018, Reuters reported that Andeavor — which merged with Marathon Petroleum in 2018 — received Renewable Fuel Standard small refinery waivers for three of its refineries, prompting the National Corn Growers Association and the Renewable Fuels Association to criticize the Trump Administration for allowing its EPA administrator, Andrew Wheeler, to openly flout the RFS.

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Iowa’s U.S. Senate candidates are jockeying for roles as champions of the state’s ethanol industry, which leads the nation but faces renewed threats from within the federal government.

Both Republican U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst and Democratic challenger Theresa Greenfield have taken issue with waivers the Environmental Protection Agency granted to small oil refineries exempting them from using renewable fuels, arguing they undercut the demand for ethanol.

But as the election intensifies — a recent Des Moines Register/Mediacom Iowa Poll puts the race’s margin within 3 percentage points — each candidate is arguing she’s best suited to guide the industry through the turmoil.

“It's something that I'm not new to. I've been fighting for this for years and years,” Ernst said during a news conference Monday.

Late last week, Ernst announced she would oppose Doug Benevento's nomination to be EPA deputy administrator, effectively blocking his appointment. At issue, she said, is the administration’s consideration of a new round of waivers.

Greenfield recently began airing radio ads targeting Ernst for voting to confirm Andrew Wheeler as head of the EPA. Wheeler, who was confirmed in February 2019 after Scott Pruitt resigned from the post, previously spent years as a powerful energy lobbyist.

“(Ernst) voted to put a fossil fuel lobbyist as head of the head of EPA knowing that they would put the interests of the fossil fuel industry and Big Oil first and foremost,” Greenfield said during a news conference Tuesday.  

Greenfield has called on Wheeler to resign, and urged Ernst to do the same.

Ernst noted that she previously called on Wheeler to resign if the administration can’t deliver on its commitment of blending 15 billion gallons of ethanol into the nation’s fuel supply.

And Greenfield has been hammering her hard on voting to confirm Wheeler. Here’s Greenfield’s op-ed in The Gazette:

There are many reasons why our farm communities have been struggling these last few years: haphazard trade policies, historic flooding, and this pandemic certainly haven’t helped. But a big part of why our farmers are in this position again is because of harmful ethanol policies coming from Washington that were preventable.

In fact, Andrew Wheeler, the EPA Administrator that Sen. Joni Ernst voted to confirm, is a former fossil fuel lobbyist. He made it clear during his confirmation process that he would continue the practice of granting Renewable Fuel Standard waivers to the oil industry at the expense of Iowa farmers and biofuels producers.

Sen. Ernst voted to confirm him anyway. Sure enough, he did exactly what he said he would do — and what Ernst signed off on with her confirmation vote — and continued giving these handouts to the oil industry. Oil refiners have been granted a staggering 85 waivers since 2016 and it’s Iowa farmers who are paying the price.

Ethanol production in Iowa is down by half this year, and last month, experts at Iowa State projected that our ethanol industry would lose close to $2.6 billion in 2020. Nine biofuel plants have already shut their doors.

Now, even as our farmers struggle to make ends meet and biofuel producers idle their plants, we’re learning that the EPA is considering another 52 retroactive gap-year waivers for the oil industry, going all the way back to 2011.

And now Ernst is trying to distance herself from Trump on this whole clusterfuck:

Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) announced today that Doug Benevento, President Trump's nominee for deputy EPA administrator, does not have her support.

“Until EPA tells us exactly what they plan to do with the 'gap year' waivers, Mr. Benevento does not have my vote,” Ernst said in a statement today. “Iowa's hardworking ethanol and biodiesel producers are sick of being yanked around by Andrew Wheeler and the EPA. Our producers need certainty; until we get that, no EPA nominee is getting my vote.”

Ernst sits on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, which advances EPA nominees. Without Ernst's support, and if panel Democrats stand united in opposition to Benevento, he would not have the votes to move out of committee and onto the Senate floor for a confirmation vote.

Recognizing Benevento's nomination doesn't have enough support, Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) chairman of the EPW committee, said the panel wouldn't take it up.

Let’s make Ernst and Trump pay big time in Iowa. Click below to donate and get involved with Greenfield, Biden and their fellow Iowa Democrats campaigns:

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